Even though there hasn’t been much to talk about in the world of Nunavut sport and recreation, there are still awards to be handed out for those who have done good.

The class of last year was given their just due in the Legislative Assembly earlier this month as the 2021 Sport and Recreation Awards honourees were announced by David Joanasie, the Minister of Community and Government Services (CGS).

In his ministers’ statement announcing the winners, Joanasie said no gala was held due to public health measures in place at the time but arrangements have been made to recognize the winners.

One of those winners is Qaritaq Kusugak-Clark, who was named Male Athlete of the Year. The 21-year-old hockey player is in his freshman year at Lake Forest College, located just outside of Chicago, and suited up with the school’s men’s hockey team this past season.

Kusugak-Clark said it was a great honour to have been chosen.

“I wasn’t expecting to get it but I’ll take it,” he said. “I was excited to tell my family about it and I had no clue I was going to win it. Just a big thank you to all who have helped me get to this point in my career and thank you to whoever nominated me.”

Before making his way to the U.S., Kusugak-Clark spent seven seasons playing with Notre Dame College in some shape or form. The final three seasons at Notre Dame was spent with the junior team playing in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, serving as captain in his final season.

He said making the move to a bigger locale wasn’t too much of a culture shock for him after spending several years away from home.

“Going to Notre Dame, I was used to seeing bigger buildings but it was still a bit of a surprise when I got down here,” he said. “You see these massive buildings and you don’t see too much of that in Rankin Inlet. But I’m enjoying it, it’s a great environment, the facilities are great and the people have been real good to me.”

Another winner was Nick Murray of Iqaluit, who received Official of the Year for his work in hockey and like Kusugak-Clark, he had no idea he was in the running.

“I never got into officiating for the honours, I do it because I enjoy it,” he said. “I started doing men’s league when I moved to Iqaluit and I started with absolutely nothing — no shin guards, no elbow pads, just my skates. I took a slap shot to the knee one game and that’s when I realized I need to get some protection. But it’s been a great way to stay involved in the game and stay active.”

One of Murray’s big influences was the late Craig Hockridge, former referee-in-chief for Hockey North, and it was Hockridge who helped get Murray on the road to certification.

“I was looking at getting serious about officiating and I had to write a test to get my certification,” said Murray. “I couldn’t find anyone in Iqaluit who did a clinic or could give the test but I bumped into Craig during the Arctic Winter Games in 2016. I told him about wanting to write the test and he pulled one right out his bag and said ‘Do it right here’. He was always helpful and kept me honest on the ice and I wouldn’t be certified without him.”

Here’s a full list of the winners from CGS:

Sport and Recreation Division Awards

Male Athlete of the Year – Qaritaq Kusugak-Clark (Rankin Inlet)

Female Athlete of the Year – Haley Hachey (Baker Lake)

Official of the Year – Nick Murray (Iqaluit)

Coach of the Year – Kyle St. Laurent (Iqaluit)

Administrator of the Year – Maria Csaba (Kugluktuk)

Special Recognition Award for outstanding contribution to sport – Lisa Oolooyuk (Rankin Inlet), Kay McKechnie (Iqaluit), and Shylah Elliot (Iqaluit)

Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut Awards

RPAN Youth Leader of the Year: Quentin Sala (Sanikiluaq) and Jeremi Boisvert (Taloyoak)

Baffinland Iron Mines Recreation Leader of the Year: Ragily Singoorie (Pond Inlet)

Canadian North Volunteer of the Year: Fernando Fernandez (Sanikiluaq)

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